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Kremenets

KREMENETS (Pol. Krzemieniec), town in Tarnopol district, Ukraine, from 1344; under Lithuania until 1569; Poland-Lithuania until 1793; Russia until 1918; and again under Poland until 1939. Jews are first mentioned there in 1438, when they were granted a charter by the Lithuanian grand duke Svidrigailo. They were expelled in 1495 along with all other Jews in Lithuania, returning in 1503. The number of Jews in the town rose from 240 (10.6% of the total population) in 1552 to 500 in 1578 and 845 (15% of the total) in 1629. The community developed and prospered in the 16th and 17th centuries, up to 1648. It was a center of *Arenda activity and the related trade. Among the rabbis of that period were Mordecai b. Abraham Jaffe and Samson b. Bezalel, brother of Judah Loew b. Bezalel of Prague. The representatives of the community participated in the work of the Volhynian Council, and in the work of the Council of Four Lands. Outstanding among the scholars of the yeshivah at the beginning of the 17th century was *Joseph b. Moses of Kremenets. In the *Chmielnicki massacres (1648–49) and the Russian and Swedish wars soon after, many Jews were savagely murdered and many others fled. Subsequently the community was unable to regain its former importance. In 1765 only 649 Jews lived there. The Jews were prohibited from rebuilding the houses burned down in the frequent fires that broke out in the town. At the beginning of Russian rule Kremenets was an impoverished community of petty traders and craftsmen.

Kremenets was within the range of 50 versts from the Russian border, which was prohibited to Jews, but the authorities did not apply this prohibition to the town. The number of Jews increased from 3,791 in 1847 to 6,539 (37% of the total population) in 1897. At the end of the 19th century they played an important role in the economy of the town, in particular the paper industry, and the Jewish carpenters and cobblers of Kremenets exported their goods to other towns in Poland and Russia. There was an active cultural life in the community with the Haskalah and Ḥasidism competing for influence. The Haskalah writer Isaac Baer *Levinsohn lived there, as did the Ḥasid R. Mordecai, father-in-law of Nahum Twersky of Chernobyl. In 1918–20 Kremenets suffered from the attacks of marauding bands in the Ukraine. In 1921, 6,619 Jews lived there, and 7,256 in 1931. In modern Poland the Jews faced both the need for reorganization of their markets, as they were cut off from Russia, and the anti-Jewish policies of Polish society and state. Cultural life continued, influenced mostly by Zionism. Two periodicals in Yiddish, which appeared at the beginning of the 1930s, merged in 1933 into one weekly newspaper, Kremenitser Lebn. Until 1939 there operated in town a Hebrew Tarbut school, as well as a Hebrew nursery, a talmud torah, and an ORT vocational school. A local drama circle and a string orchestra gave public performances. The violonist Isaac *Stern took his first steps in music there.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

A. Stein (ed.), Pinkas Kremenets: Sefer Zikkaron (Heb. and Yid., 1954).